Dear fellow snowriders,
Don't get caught in Silverton Mountain's smoke screen for the BLM
On the morning of April 16, 2006, we loaded onto the Silverton Mountain chairlift for what was to be a great day to share with my best friends. After unloading we strapped our boards to our backs and headed up Billboard peak. We were told that this was the first time Billboard had ever been open to unguided skiers. This simple fact alone would be considered a "no-brainer" in my mind to make sure that proper markation lines be in affect and most importantly, have a ski patrol at the top of Billboard to alert un-guided skiers away from dangerous and/or illegal skiing zones. The fact is, there was no patrol at the top of Billboard when we arrived. Aaron Brill, the owner of Silverton Mnt. was finding it more important to take pictures of the first people descending the newly opened terrain rather than making sure that a member of his safety team was at the top of Billboard to verbally communicate to his patrons dangerous zones that could result in injury or death or, in our case, land you in front of the Silverton judge. Maybe a patroller could have told us that they didn't have time to put ropes up on the right side of Billboard, but no.
Ropes strung along bamboo or an orange and black "closed" sign is proper protocol in Colorado ski patrol as is in most of the world, and that for the 40 minutes of hiking we did to get to the top of Billboard; we encountered ropes with closed signs along the entire hike. These closures were very obvious to any skier and set the tone for our decent. As we "dropped in," one person at a time, we made our way down, very slowly and methodically due to the fact that we were in unfamiliar territory and had not been issued any verbal communications except midway on the hike a patroller yells "the right side is good to go!" After riding about 100 yards down Billboard peak, we traversed through what Silverton Mountain considers a "closure" marked with nothing more than three red sticks of bamboo. Not just in Colorado, but in the rest of the United States and Canada, this type of marking is used to signify a hazard or communicate caution to a skier. As experienced big mountain riders, this is obviously what caused us to enter this forbidden zone. Once we passed the sick, about 25 yards, we just stood there taking in the beauty, smiling while shaking our heads at each other in agreement, snapping some photos and preparing for the main drop. As this is happening, a patroller dressed in regular clothes ski up to us and says, "You guys just fucked up big!" At this point I am confused until I see his radio and his communicating with Aaron stating that he "got us." Once we found out that we had crossed Silverton's vague line of markation, we offered to traverse back the 25 yards to get back in bounds and continue with a good morning. This was our first run! The un-marked patroller says that "it's out of my hands; my boss has made up his mind." But continuously ignored to radio in our request to get back in bounds. Interestingly, the "guide/patroller" who is escorting us down the shoot we were on top of, called "chick flick" and "porn star" (as named by Silverton Mnt.) takes off down the shoot and says, "follow me" as he skis away leaving us where we stand. Now, I am no ski patrol, however, if we are being considered "poachers" at this point, and are in a danger zone which is supposedly why this shoot was closed, then why would this guide/patroller just take off and ski the entire shoot as if he is in an extreme competition. This made me think back to the possibility that he would not radio in our request to simply ski back in bounds because he wanted to ride this pristine shoot that was below him. First tracks, nothing like it, right powder hounds?
Well the ride down was pretty good, however difficult to fully enjoy due to the fact that we had already been informed that the authorities were on their way. I think this is Aaron Brill and Silverton mountain's way of trying to look good in the eyes of the BLM. And, his ego obviously will not accept any mistake, inexperience in guided or un-guided public skiing, or wrongdoing on his part. Once we arrived at the base area, we asked to speak with Aaron since his patrollers were placing all the blame for our dismay on him. He conveniently arrived at the base area about an hour later after we had already been issued a summons to appear in court and realized he that we were not going to leave without forcing him to look into our eyes and honestly declare no wrong doing on his part. I happened to record with my helmet-cam video and audio of many conversations that day which is the evidence to defend our innocence in court.
Silverton Mnt's manager, Jen Brill, stated that they "can't just put ropes all over the mountain for us
" reasons of man-power and overnight weather blowing the ropes around. I find this to be extremely unprofessional safety practice. Even more interesting, I listed to audio of Aaron stating how it's "hard" to put a rope up where we crossed into the forbidden because of rocks. However, that is untrue as well due to the fact that we took a photo of a tri-pod of bamboo erected on sheer rock, holding a rope signifying closed terrain while we were on the hike up. We rode our boards across snow to get to "porn star" and "chic flic." Another great discovery in my research was to find on Silverton's web-site the advertising of "porn star" and "chick flic" as open and to come ride it; before we got there. Monday morning, Silverton's web site advertised that two lucky skiers got to ride chick flic and porn star. Well they must have skied right through our tracks. Coincidentally, the very next weekend of opening, Silverton Mnt. advertised a "BLM gate" allowing riders to enter into the zone we had gotten ticketed for. However, charges against us stand. Aaron fears dropping charges will bring heat from the BLM because that would be admitting faults and possibly making it more difficult to get his beloved permit issued by the BLM to allow over 400 skiers per day. Don't show up on that day unless two runs is enough. Aaron stated that they have things to learn and ate up our input for proper safety and marking terrain like it was ice cream. Once he realized that we were not punk-ass kids trying to poach in front of everyone, yet honest, experienced mountain riders, it was too late. We have to appear in court now because of rash, uncalculated, egotistical, and general poor and lazy mountain safety management.
We can not forget about Aaron and Silverton Mountain continuously blaming BLM guidelines for his decisions to prosecute us. I am glad to hear of the stern regulations put in force by the BLM because one day, someone with less experience could easily and unknowingly penetrate Silverton's inexperienced snow safety team's work and find themselves in more trouble than just dealing with some legal issues.
Aaron Brill called the sheriff's department on us before we even dropped in to "closed" terrain considering us poachers. They brag about the number of people that have been caught. I believe the larger percentage of so-called poachers was not intending to break the law. Silverton Mountain's management is only concerned about getting an unguided skiing permit no matter the expense of others. Is this the kind of ski area that we should have in Colorado; one that accepts no blame for their shortcomings? Aaron Brill bought up a bunch of polluted land, put a chairlift on it, advertises a backcountry powder experience, yet opens and closes terrain like he is herding cows. You may take a run to scout a sweet line and on your way back there, you find that it's closed for the day
to you. Others may still ski it because they are on a "private tour." True backcountry skiers are better off hiking mountains that aren't dictated by an ego-maniac. Aaron Brill and his Silverton Mountain, in my opinion, just ruined a bunch of acres of once soulful backcountry terrain.
Crested Butte, CO